Afonso Alves proved the scourge of Manchester City once again as his coolly-dispatched 53rd-minute penalty proved enough to secure Middlesbrough the points at the Riverside Stadium.
Brazilian Alves had hit a hat-trick in rather different circumstances in the corresponding fixture last season as Boro struck an extraordinary eight goals past their opponents to round off their campaign.
On a decidedly more chilly evening another nine-goal epic was always a distant dream but that will not perturb Boro boss Gareth Southgate whose workmanlike side were full value for their points.
They were finally secured in the fifth minute of injury-time when Boro streaked over the half-way line and Tuncay Sanli squared for Gary O'Neil to lash his side's second into the roof of the net.
Goalkeeper Ross Turnbull made a super series of saves to deny Vincent Kompany, Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips but ultimately City boss Mark Hughes could have few complaints.
Referee Lee Mason pointed to the spot after Daniel Sturridge tangled with David Wheater on the edge of the City box - despite the complaints of visiting players that the incident happened outside the box.
The goal came at a time when City were threatening to take control of the game and build on a bright start which had seen record signing Robinho at the centre of most of their early moves.
The Brazilian fired high and wide in the sixth minute and three minutes later danced his way around the Boro rearguard again before hitting a low shot which Turnbull did well to save at full stretch.
But Boro grabbed the chance to turn the match in their favour in the 53rd minute when Sturridge and Wheater tangled in the far right corner of the City box and referee Mason pointed to the spot.
Alves stepped up to coolly place the ball high to Hart's right.